The Best Thanksgiving Ever

As I am about to set the table for this year’s big feast, I am once again reminded of the one Thanksgiving that sticks out in my memory as significant. The Hubs and I dust off the story every year, and the telling of it is usually preceded by one of us asking the other, “Do you remember our worst Thanksgiving ever?”

I even recounted every detail in a blog post last year entitled…yep, “The Worst Thanksgiving Ever!” After I hit publish, I told him what I’d done, and we relived each minute of that day again. And then, like every year since, we laugh and go back to “the best part”, and laugh again.

So now, as I’m getting ready to re-publish the story, I’m wondering if it was really the worst Thanksgiving ever, why do we revisit it every year? Why do we tell the story over and over again if it was so horrible? Why do we laugh the whole way through the retelling? Why do we clink our glasses together in celebration if it doesn’t rank up there as one of the best memories of our marriage?

I think it’s time for a title change…

***********************************

The Worst Best Thanksgiving Ever

Every Thanksgiving as we sit around the table enjoying the turkey and all the trimmings, the Hubs and I reflect on the day. One of us will inevitably say, “Well, at least it wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving ever.” Then we’ll chuckle and smile and share the story all over again.

Thanksgiving

This is NOT the perfect turkey I expected to find on my first Thanksgiving without family. (Photo source: Flickr, Sharon Mollerus, cc-by-2.0)

The Hubs was stationed with the Second Armor Division at Fort Hood, TX, that year. We had celebrated our first wedding anniversary in September, and the Older One was just three months old. This was our first Thanksgiving without family…at least without immediate blood relations.  The Army was our family now, so when the Hubs’ captain extended the invitation to join his wife and their two small children for a Thanksgiving lunch, we accepted.

We were just getting ready to leave our little apartment for the meal, when the phone rang.  I listened as the Hubs said a few “Yes, Sirs” into the phone. After hanging up, he told me our plans had changed. We would not be having a Thanksgiving lunch after all.

The captain’s wife had taken the turkey out of the freezer the night before, he said, and was baffled that the bird was still frozen when she got up that morning to start preparing it for our feast. The new plan called for football at the captain’s house while the turkey roasted, and instead of an early lunch, we’d eat mid-afternoon.

Mid-afternoon came and went. By 2:00, the bird was still frosty and hadn’t yet seen the inside of the oven.

The captain and the Hubs’ made a quick trip into post to visit with the enlisted soldiers during their holiday meal while the wife and I made small talk and snacked on half a box of stale crackers and overly sweet wine coolers. My baby napped, and I mentally calculated if I’d brought enough formula and diapers to get us through dinner…that is if we ever had dinner.

Around 4:00, the turkey finally made it into the oven. The Hubs and the captain returned, and we all waited.

Finally, at 7:00, the captain made the first slice into our Thanksgiving turkey only to find that the meat inside was raw. By then, the side dishes were growing cold, and we were all too frustrated to wait on the bird. The captain carved up a few of the cooked pieces and served the cranky kids while his wife finished off the raw pieces in the microwave.

The Hubs and I juggled our sleepy baby between us while we gnawed the rubbery poultry, and as soon as was socially acceptable, we made our escape.

We had survived the worst Thanksgiving ever and lived to tell the tale…over and over and over again for more than 20 years.  And over and over again we laugh at the mistake that set off that worst of the worst—a frozen turkey that someone didn’t know enough to take out of the freezer well in advance of the big day.

That someone was a young wife and mother, not much older than I was at the time. I imagine she was excited about the prospect of hosting her first Thanksgiving and about offering her hospitality to a young couple alone for the holiday.

She probably went to the commissary the day before full of anticipation about the recipes she would share with me. She probably spent more time than necessary selecting the perfect produce and agonized over how big that infamous bird should be. I imagine she was horrified the next morning to find it still as solid as it was the night before.

I’m pretty sure the reason we were not notified of the schedule change until it was too late for us to change our plans is because our hostess was busy praying to the culinary gods for some kind of Thanksgiving miracle to save the perfect day she had planned.

In her shoes, I would have been mortified to confess my cooking inadequacies to my guests. I would have repeatedly excused myself from the tense conversation with the lieutenant’s wife to check on the turkey, knowing I really just wanted to hide in the kitchen and cry.

I sincerely hope that captain’s wife looks back on that Thanksgiving and laughs like the Hubs and I do.  We may call it “Our Worst Thanksgiving Ever”, but if the worst thing that happens on Thanksgiving is a frozen turkey, I’d say we had it pretty good.

We had nowhere else to go, and no one to spend the holiday with until virtual strangers opened their home to us. That may actually be the best thing that has ever happened to us on Thanksgiving. We may not have had a perfectly prepared meal all those years ago, but we had a place to go for the holiday, and for that I am thankful.

Hopefully, that Thanksgiving didn’t prevent the captain’s wife from trying again the next year. I hope right now, she is preparing for this year’s feast with her grown children and maybe even some colleagues her husband met at the office.

I also hope she has remembered to take the turkey out of the freezer!

A Handful of Thankfuls

Thanksgiving week is finally here! The turkey is thawing in the fridge. The menu is planned. The wine is chilling, and the pantry is fully stocked. Aside from actually roasting the bird and baking the pies, I think I’m ready for the big day.

The only thing left to do is actually take some time to reflect on those things that rise to the top of my “Forever Thankful For” list. I could throw down a top 100 list like I did last year, but the 2.0 version probably wouldn’t be that much different from the original. So this year, I’m going to keep my thankfuls to a handful of things I couldn’t do without.

I am Forever Thankful For:

My Family. So many things changed for me over the past six months, but the most important thing has stayed the same. The Hubs is still right by my side. My kids still keep me smiling. My pups still make me laugh. My parents still support me in whatever endeavor I pursue, and my MIL still fills in when she’s needed. It’s this unconditional love that reminds me where we put our roots doesn’t matter nearly as much as who our roots are connected to.

My Job. Even though I had to move my home this year, I didn’t have to move my job. Moving and starting a new job both make the list of most stressful life events. As the trailing spouse, I’ve had to do both at the same on several occasions. Doubling up on top stressers again is really not on my bucket list, so I am grateful to have an employer that embraces a virtual and flexible workforce.

My GPS. Siri and I have a classic love/hate relationship, but I honestly don’t know how I did the moving-to-a-new-city thing without my favorite computerized girl giving me turn by turn directions.

My Pinterest Boards. Without this social media marvel to keep me organized and inspired, the Young One would not have had a rock star birthday or a Hermione Halloween costume. My St. Patrick’s Day party might have featured green beer instead of craft beer, and I might have lost that link to “Moving Day Made Easy”. I frequently called on Pinterest this year to help make everything seem effortless. It’s always nice to have someone else do the hard parts for you.

My Blog. I pushed it aside for several months, but I have come to realize over the past 23 days that blogging turns a light on. Sometimes, it is a huge spotlight that puts an event on display and gives me a reason to write, but sometimes it’s just a bare light bulb popping on over my head. Those are the moments–when inspiration strikes during an otherwise mundane email check or a routine Brownie Scout meeting–that make me drop everything, change the schedule and type with a frenzy and a smile on my face. The light bulb moments are the ones that keep me coming back to the blog, and the blog is what keeps the light bulb moments coming back to me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving Decisions

I have always had a hard time making decisions. When faced with choices, I’ll research, then compare, then get opinions, and finally make a choice. But then…I’ll second guess and change my mind and triple guess then change it again.

Just imagine how challenging menu planning for Thanksgiving is! 

  

 Should I brine or roast the bird? Up until about five minutes ago, I was set on trying my hand at brining. Then I made the mistake of checking the recipe I had found in the latest issue of Food Network Magazine. I flipped a little too far in the magazine, and landed on “Cajun Bourbon Roasted Turkey”. 

Mmmmm… 

Now, I’m back to roasting…at least for the time being…I think…

 That’s settled. Now, how about pies? Should I stick with tried and true pumpkin or kick it up a notch with “Vanilla Bourbon Pumpkin Pie”? I’m sensing a theme with the bourbon. Themes are good. 

But “Apple Berry Twist” is different, and I definitely don’t like to be predictable. “Apple-Pear Crumble” could work for that too. 

However, there’s nothing saying I can only make one pie. Maybe I’ll do all three…plus two turkeys…and six sides…ooh and three variations on mashed potatoes…and don’t forget the bourbon-laced gravy.  

I think I might need to start looking for Thanksgiving leftover recipes!

Thanksgiving S.O.S.

I think I have amnesia.

The last thing I clearly remember is congratulating the Hubs on successfully passing out all of our Halloween candy. We had finally managed the ever-elusive tricker-treater to candy bar ratio, and I was pleased to not feel obligated to consume the left-over peanut butter cups again this year.

I know I climbed into bed that night feeling happy, but then…the rest is a blank.

I must have fallen out of bed and whacked my head on the nightstand because I seem to have lost about 26 days.

The first thing I noticed was that my watch was wrong. It was an hour faster than the time on my phone.

“Okay,” I said to myself as I took a deep breath. “I just missed the end of Daylight Savings Time. That happens to people all the time. No big deal.”

Big Book

“I want this. I want that. I want one of everything!”

But then I noticed the Young One reading the Sunday paper…no, wait a minute…not the newspaper…a store insert…but not just any insert.  The Toys R Us Big Book—aka the All-I-Want-For-Christmas-Is-Inside-This-Book book!

She should be getting sick on Kit Kats and Three Musketeers today, not writing her letter to Santa Claus!

Then through the radio speakers I heard a sound that forced a gasp from my lips… “Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh…”  Jingle Bells? Wasn’t Monster Mash on that same station last night?

I raced to the TV, knowing CNN would give me the latest on some type of new-age terror attack that must have wiped my memory. But instead of Wolf Blitzer, I found myself staring at a jolly fat man in a red suit marketing the creamy goodness of Ready Wip in his hot cocoa!

What happened to the pies and the turkey?

The Older One was planning on coming home for Thanksgiving.  Did I miss it? Who cooked for him? Who did his laundry? Who hugged him good-bye before he set out on his own into this crazy mixed up world?

I’ve gone from Halloween to Christmas with no cranberry sauce in between!

Somebody please bring back Thanksgiving!

Somebody!

Anybody!

HELP!

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

Every Thanksgiving as we sit around the table enjoying the turkey and all the trimmings, the Hubs and I reflect on the day. One of us will inevitably say, “Well, at least it wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving ever.” Then we’ll chuckle and smile and share the story all over again.

Thanksgiving

This is NOT the perfect turkey I expected to find on my first Thanksgiving without family. (Photo source: Flickr, Sharon Mollerus, cc-by-2.0)

The Hubs was stationed with the Second Armor Division at Fort Hood, TX, that year. We had celebrated our first wedding anniversary in September, and the Older One was just three months old. This was our first Thanksgiving without family…at least without immediate blood relations.  The Army was our family now, so when the Hubs’ captain extended the invitation to join his wife and their two small children for a Thanksgiving lunch, we accepted.

We were just getting ready to leave our little apartment for the meal, when the phone rang.  I listened as the Hubs said a few “Yes, Sirs” into the phone. After hanging up, he told me our plans had changed. We would not be having a Thanksgiving lunch after all.

The captain’s wife had taken the turkey out of the freezer the night before, he said, and was baffled that the bird was still frozen when she got up that morning to start preparing it for our feast. The new plan called for football at the captain’s house while the turkey roasted, and instead of an early lunch, we’d eat mid-afternoon.

Mid-afternoon came and went. By 2:00, the bird was still frosty and hadn’t yet seen the inside of the oven.

The captain and the Hubs’ made a quick trip into post to visit with the enlisted soldiers during their holiday meal while the wife and I made small talk and snacked on half a box of stall crackers and overly sweet wine coolers. My baby napped, and I mentally calculated if I’d brought enough formula and diapers to get us through dinner…that is if we ever had dinner.

Around 4:00, the turkey finally made it into the oven. The Hubs and the captain returned, and we all waited.

Finally, at 7:00, the captain made the first slice into our Thanksgiving turkey only to find that the meat inside was raw. By then, the side dishes were growing cold, and we were all too frustrated to wait on the bird. The captain carved up a few of the cooked pieces and served the cranky kids while his wife finished off the raw pieces in the microwave.

The Hubs and I juggled our sleepy baby between us while we gnawed the rubbery poultry, and as soon as was socially acceptable, we made our escape.

We had survived the worst Thanksgiving ever and lived to tell the tale…over and over and over again for more than 20 years.  And over and over again we laugh at the mistake that set off that worst of the worst—a frozen turkey that someone didn’t know enough to take out of the freezer well in advance of the big day.

That someone was a young wife and mother, not much older than I was at the time. I imagine she was excited about the prospect of hosting her first Thanksgiving and about offering her hospitality to a young couple alone for the holiday.

She probably went to the commissary the day before full of anticipation about the recipes she would share with me. She probably spent more time than necessary selecting the perfect produce and agonized over how big that infamous bird should be. I imagine she was horrified the next morning to find it still as solid as it was the night before.

I’m pretty sure the reason we were not notified of the schedule change until it was too late for us to change our plans is because our hostess was busy praying to the culinary gods for some kind of Thanksgiving miracle to save the perfect day she had planned.

In her shoes, I would have been mortified to confess my cooking inadequacies to my guests. I would have repeatedly excused myself from the tense conversation with the lieutenant’s wife to check on the turkey, knowing I really just wanted to hide in the kitchen and cry.

I sincerely hope that captain’s wife looks back on that Thanksgiving and laughs like the Hubs and I do.  We may call it “Our Worst Thanksgiving Ever”, but if the worst thing that happens on Thanksgiving is a frozen turkey, I’d say we had it pretty good.

We had nowhere else to go, and no one to spend the holiday with until virtual strangers opened their home to us. That may actually be the best thing that has ever happened to us on Thanksgiving. We may not have had a perfectly prepared meal all those years ago, but we had a place to go for the holiday, and for that I am thankful.

Hopefully, that Thanksgiving didn’t prevent the captain’s wife from trying again the next year. I hope right now, she is preparing for this year’s feast with her grown children and maybe even some colleagues her husband met at the office.

I also hope she has remembered to take the turkey out of the freezer!

Keeping With {a New} Tradition

Thanksgiving festivities are just around the corner. I started receiving the first of the out-of-office replies from colleagues last Friday. The annual Grandparent Thanksgiving lunch at the Young One’s school is on the calendar for Tuesday. Cornucopia embroidered flags are waving in the breeze, and the first text for emergency baking supplies just made its way through the neighborhood. Kroger is a war zone these days, and all of us want avoid breaching that line at all costs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Hubs and I haven’t hosted a Thanksgiving meal at our house since the Older One started as a Plebe at West Point four years ago. As a member of the football team, he either spent the majority of the holiday practicing or playing a game.

Last year, he was in Hawaii for the holiday preparing for a post-Thanksgiving game. The year before, he took a bus to Boston with a teammate, and the year before that, my parents braved holiday travelers to take him in for the few free days he had available.

After that first Thanksgiving without him, I decided making his favorites when he isn’t here to enjoy them is too depressing. So now instead of chopping vegetables and baking pies, the most I do to prepare for the Thanksgiving meal  is pick up the phone to make reservations at a local restaurant.

The first year we did this, I admit, things felt very different. Usually, I’m up long before everyone else, stuffing the bird and rolling out dough. If I was lucky, I might have enough time to sit down to review the Black Friday ads before it was time to baste again.

That year though, with no bird to roast, I slept in and had a leisurely cup of coffee by the fire.  I watched the Thanksgiving Day parade for the first time in years.  I took time with my hair and makeup because, well…I had time.

Previously, I had spent weeks planning the menu, carefully managing a balance of tried and true recipes with new ones. Then I’d be too worried about which ones turned out right to really enjoy the food.

At the restaurant, however, I was treated to a true stress-free feast–roast turkey, deep fried turkey, ham, salmon, oyster stuffing, cranberry dressing, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate cake, cheese cake.  The buffet went on and on. Everything tasted wonderful, and I didn’t have to do anything but lift my plate to ask for more.

And when the meal was finished, I walked away. No dishes to wash, no turkey carcass to dispose of, no post-meal work at all but to collect my family and go back home where I made a cup of tea, web chatted with the Older One and spent the rest of the day just being with my family.

After that first year of paying for someone else to prepare my meal, I knew I had found a new tradition. The Older One will actually be home with us for Thanksgiving this year, but I don’t intend to cook a turkey for him. I intend to spend the day with him and the rest of my family, enjoying their company instead of watching them from the kitchen.

I know in time, I will get the urge to take on the meal prep again, but for now, I am happy with dining out on Thanksgiving. As long as I have my family around me, that’s all I really need.

100 Thankfuls: Part Two

Tonight when the Young One sat down to do her homework, I decided it was the perfect time to do mine too.  Her assignment: write a list of five things for which you are thankful. My assignment: finish that list of 100 things for which I am thankful.

So, in no particular order (except for the order in which they popped into my head), I give you numbers 51 – 100.

I am thankful for:

51. Sunny days because they just make you happier.
52. Warm days because they go with the sunny ones.
53. Snow days because it’s best to watch the snow fall from inside the house.
54. Warm boots because warm is better than cold especially when in reference to feet.
55. Hand warmers because they are the best invention for people who prefer warm to cold.
56. Foot warmers because…well…see #54 and #55.
57. Heated seats because you should not leave any body part neglected in the cold.
Fireplace58. Gas fireplaces to keep it all warm.
59. Neighbors who shovel my driveway when the Hubs is away.
60. Neighbors who are also friends because they aren’t always both.
61. Friends who love my kids like their own because it’s good to know they have someone else to go to.
62. Cookbooks so I can keep everyone well-fed with a variety of cuisine.
63. Food Network for showing me how to keep everyone well-fed.
64. Food Network Magazine for making the task of keeping everyone well-fed fun!
65. My education because even though I’ve never gotten paid for using my degree, I still have one.
66. The example I’ve set for my kids with my education because going to school is what gets you places.
67. My health because these days I’m having more good days than bad.
68. My doctors for not just seeing dollar signs when I walk through the door.
69. My dentist because I had a dental emergency this week, and he worked me into his schedule the same day.
70. Flexibility to take time off from work to go to the doctor/dentist without question.
71. My boss who understands that I am capable of working even though I have Crohn’s Disease.
72. Being able to apply my personal healthcare experience to my job in healthcare.
73. Fitness challenges that keep me motivated to work out.
74. Hot water in the fitness center shower because half the time there isn’t any.
75. Scandal because we need gladiators in suits.
76. Grey’s Anatomy because there’s nothing wrong with scrubs either.
77. Having interesting life events to blog about.
78. Friends and family who are okay with me blogging about them.
79. Friends and family who read my blog.
80. Virtual friends who read my blog.
81. Complete strangers who read my blog.
82. Having a job to go to everyday.
83. A warm house to come home to every night.
84. Scented lotion because perfume gives me a headache.
85. Fabreeze because a lot of other intense scents give me a headache too.
86. Downey Wrinkle Reducer because ironing clothes should be banned and this is the first step in its downfall.
87. Lint rollers because wearing other people’s/animal’s hair/fur is just weird.
88. My Spot Bot because sometimes puppies have accidents.
89. Twenty-five years with the Hubs because togetherness is a good thing.
90.Having traveled the world and visited places like Novokuznetsk, Russia and Paris, France.
91. Finding my daughter in Novokuznetsk, Russia.
92. Having traveled small town USA and visited places like Lagrange, IN and Big Prairie, OH.
93. Growing up in small town USA (DuBois, PA).
94. The amazing young man my son has become.
95. Being a football mom.
96. Being a soccer mom.
97. Surviving life as a coach’s wife
98. Champagne because you always need a backup for red wine.
99. My camera because without it, I’d just be words on a page.
100. MY SHOES because without them, I’d just be “Momma”…but then again, what’s wrong with that!

100 Thankfuls: Part One

It is November, and that means my Facebook news feed is starting to fill up with friends declaring the things they are thankful for each day until they carve the Turkey in a few weeks. I have never participated in this annual tradition, and I think I might have been missing out on all the fun.

So to make up for my perceived lack of thankfulness over the past few years, I have decided to officially record my list of things for which I’m thankful, but I’m not stopping at 30. I’ve missed at least three years of gratitude, so I am going to list the 100 (yes 1-0-0!) people, things, and concepts that make me the happy, thankful person I am.

I’m a little short on time, so let’s start with the first half…in no particular order except for the various tangents of my mind.

I am forever thankful for:

  1. The Hubs with whom I’ll celebrate 25 years of togetherness next week.
  2. The Older One who made me a momma and impresses me every day.
  3. The Younger One who continues to surprise me every day.
  4. My Dad who gave me his sense of humor.
  5. My Momma who gave me her crafty gene.
  6. The MIL who fills in for me at the bus stop and makes sure I have clean clothes.
  7. Fluffy

    This is the biggest diva in my family.

    The Furry One who is still with us four years after the vet started preparing us for the worst.

  8. The Fluffy One for being the biggest little diva in the house.
  9. The airplane that will bring the Older One home for Thanksgiving for the first time in four years.
  10. An Ebola-free country.
  11. A wide variety of scented hand sanitizers.
  12. Sanitizing wipes at store entrances to keep OPG (Other People’s Germs) off my shopping cart.
  13. Flu shots for the whole family!
  14. Hand sanitizer holders so I can always have a drop of cleanliness with me.
  15. The product marketers who create hand sanitizers/wipes/shots, so I can go on believing I will never be sick again.
  16. SnyderofBerlin.com so I can order an entire case of my favorite BBQ potato chips anytime I want them.
  17. Gloria Jean Butter Toffee K Cups for my Keurig.
  18. Peanut butter for being my go-to snack/meal/protein fix.
  19. Honey crisp apples for going so perfectly with peanut butter.
  20. Popcorn for being the snack of choice for powerful women everywhere.
  21. malbec

    Perfect with popcorn!

    Wine for being the perfect complement to popcorn and powerful women everywhere.

  22. Tea for being exotically spiced and sophisticated.
  23. Mio water enhancer because plain water needs a boost very now and then.
  24. My Kindle, aka my best friend at the pool, at the beach, by the fire…pretty much anywhere.
  25. My FitBit for counting my steps so I don’t have to.
  26. My iPad for keeping me connected.
  27. My smartphone for connecting me on the go.
  28. My boss for letting me work from home when I need to.
  29. My co-workers for not being obnoxious cube-mates.
  30. My Fitness Center for being a short block from the office, so I can squeeze in a quick lunch-time workout.
  31. My employer for being ranked as the number one healthcare company to work for.
  32. Video conferences so I can be present at meetings even when I’m really not.
  33. Screen sharing so I can present at meetings at which I am not.
  34. Web cams so I see the Older One when I’m at home, but he’s not.
  35. Facetime, so I can see the Younger One when she’s at home, but I’m not.
  36. Purple ink because black ink is boring.
  37. Purple ribbons that raise awareness for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
  38. Amazon Prime for bringing the joy of “free” two-day shipping to my over-committed life.
  39. Zappos for having a distribution center close enough to me so that anything I order shows up at my door the next day.
  40. Ouidad for making the most amazing curly girl hair products.
  41. Ulta and Sephora for carrying Ouidad products because Ouidad.com does not yet have the power to ship super speedy at no charge and sometimes curly girls have emergencies.
  42. West Point Moms because they are the strongest women I know.
  43. The West Point Moms Facebook community that tells me things about cadet life that my cadet won’t.
  44. The West Point Moms Ornament Exchange for filling my Christmas tree with memories.
  45. The West Point Moms Class of 2015 Facebook group for keeping me sane as we prepare for graduation and commissioning.
  46. Facebook for giving me the opportunity to bond with some of the best friends I’ve never met.
  47. Pinterest for making me believe I can DIY.
  48. Instagram for making my cell phone pics look really cool.
  49. Twitter for giving me a reason to use the # key.
  50. WordPress for giving me an outlet to express myself.

There you have it–the first half of my 100 things for which I am thankful.  Look for the next half sometime before next Thanksgiving!